Cacio e pepe is one of the simplest, yet most beloved dishes in Italian cuisine. Typically made with long, thin pasta like tagliolini, bucatini or tonnarelli—the dish combines pepe (Italian for “pepper”) and cacio (the local Roman dialect word for Pecorino Romano) with hot, starchy pasta water to create a creamy sauce which is then tossed with the pasta to serve. Some chefs add olive oil, others Parmigiano-Reggiano, but the base remains the same: pasta, pepper and cheese.
At SIMÒ Pizza, the Neapolitan pizzeria that recently opened in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, cacio e pepe is the name of a popular order, yet pasta is nowhere nearby. Use the recipe below to bring the dish’s signature taste to life via pizzas you prepare for yourself, family and friends at home.
Cacio e Pepe PizzaCourtesy of Chef Simone Falco of SIMÒ Pizza, New York City
For the dough:
3 grams dry yeast
400 grams lukewarm water
20 grams salt
600 grams flour
For toppings (per pizza):
70 grams of Pecorino Romano
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Black pepper, to taste
80 grams of mozzarella di bufala
1. Make the dough: In a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the water to the yeast until the yeast dissolves. Set aside. Dissolve the salt in the remaining water and mix for 1 minute. Mix the flour with the salt water for 3 minutes. Add the dissolved yeast and continue to mix, kneading the dough with your hands, for another 3 minutes. Let the dough rest in a container for 3 hours, covered, before rolling the dough into 4 balls of equal size. Cover with a wet towel or tight plastic wrap to preserve humidity and allow the balls to rise for 5 hours.
2. Prepare the pizza stone: Set the oven to its maximum temperature, ideally 550˚F, and place the pizza stone inside. Let it saturate with heat for at least 1 hour.
3. Assemble the pizza: Stretch a ball of dough out to a 12-inch round. Add the Pecorino, basil, pepper, and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil. Cook in the oven for 2 minutes, then add the mozzarella and cook for an extra minute. Serve immediately.
Photo by Francesco Sapienza.